Friday, June 16, 2023

Self-defeating Common Wisdom, Cheat Days, and Stress

 I was talking with a bartender about my diet yesterday.  He was congratulatory about my weight loss, but he also seemed to have some concerns centering on orthorexia -- or a diet that is overly restrictive.  After I told him about being essentially 'keto', and cutting out sugar, he asked if I took a weekly cheat day to eat whatever I wanted.  I gave him a bit of a dissertation on the 'addiction model'  to which he made a face, and walked away. 

You can't have a little bit of heroin, or a little bit of cigarettes.  Why should we think that refined sugar is any different?  There is so much cultural impetus wrapped up in a brownie sundae that we just aren't wise enough to say 'no thanks', more or less permanently.

I think the key to understanding why this modification feels possible for me centers on stress.  I have gone to huge strides, financially limiting strides, professionally limiting strides, to reduce stress from my life.  I used to go right from work at a high power technology consulting firm to a Chinese buffet.   I don't think I'd be able to just limit myself to a few sporadic half-pints of berries if that were still part of my life.

While there is an American puritanical tendency to value effort-ing (to use a word from the mindfulness community), and to feel lazy if we aren't revved to the max at all times, the health impact of this is terrible.  If I have a heart attack or stroke at 55, am I really going to value all the time I put in killing myself (literally) for my career?  Won't I at that point wish I had dialed it back and spent more time thinking about my health?